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Climate Change Responsible For Spread Of Deadly Frog Disease In UK

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Climate change is already affecting many species all over the world, and it is not just the exotic creatures from faraway places that are being affected. Even those that are closer to home are being threatened by the effects of a warming world.

Frog Disease And Rising Temperatures

A fatal disease caused by ranavirus has been causing mass mortality events in common frogs in the United Kingdom. To understand the possible effects of temperature on the recurrent ranavirus outbreaks among common frogs in the UK, researchers had a look at live models, cell cultures, as well as data from the Met Office and Froglife’s Frog Mortality Project.

Interestingly, they found that the pattern of rising temperatures in recent decades actually matches the historic trends of mass mortality events related to the disease. Specifically, during the periods when the temperature reaches 16 degrees Celsius, the risk for a ranavirus disease outbreak in common frogs increases. This means that as the temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, and if the carbon emissions continue as they do now, such mass mortality events may be even more common.

The research findings explain why the disease appeared to be seasonal, with outbreaks occurring during the hottest months. What is concerning is that the UK is predicted to have average monthly temperatures reaching 16 degrees Celsius in more areas and for longer periods, which could mean that the disease could continue to spread in the next 50 years.

Climate Change Reality

“Climate change isn't something that's just happening in faraway places - it's something real and present that's already had hard-to-predict impacts on wildlife in our own back gardens here in the UK,” said lead author Dr. Stephen Price.

To aid in preventing the spread of the disease, experts recommend keeping ponds deep and adding items such as log piles, plants, or other shady patches so that the frogs will have areas in which they can cool down. This way, the growth rate of the virus might be reduced, and outbreaks may be avoided.

That said, even researchers state that such solutions are merely for the short term, and that things might just get worse for amphibians and many other creatures as long as we are unable to mitigate human-driven climate change.

The study is published in Global Change Biology.

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